Diarmuid Gavin has missed out on designing a garden for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show — but is planning the biggest ever garden at Hampton Court.
Gavin’s award-winning gardens at Chelsea have attracted a blaze of controversy and publicity in the past two years for their daring designs and extravagant costs.
His latest extravagant effort is a Willy Wonka-style chocolate-themed garden that uses 18 shipping containers.
The showman wanted to create it at Chelsea’s centennial show in May but had to settle for the Royal Horticultural Society’s sister show at Hampton Court in July.
RHS shows organiser Bob Sweet said Gavin’s proposed 2,000m sq flight of fancy is simply too big for Chelsea — and he does not have a sponsor yet.
Last year, Gavin had 75 Chelsea pensioners aged between 69 and 93 line up on his seven-storey, 24m-high ‘Magical Tower Garden’.
In 2011, he won a first gold medal for his Sky Garden, 15 years after his Chelsea debut. It was inspired by Avatar and came complete with a bright pink pod winched 25m up in the air by a crane. However, it has since been blighted by controversy.
It emerged that Cork City Council has spent almost €100,000 storing plants and trees from the Sky Garden.
The council, which is overseeing the installation of the €2.3m taxpayer-funded garden in a city park, is facing a further €6,000 per month storage bill, backdated to October, until works start next month.
As relations deteriorated between the council and Gavin in the weeks after the win, he slated the local authority for its handling of the entire scheme and called for it to be scrapped. The council defended its role before cutting all ties with Gavin.
The garden, which was relocated to Ireland in May 2011, has been in storage since. Its signature flying pod, slung from a crane, is being stored in Cork’s Showgrounds.
The RHS has approved 14 gardens for Chelsea this year, but Gavin is a glaring absentee.
The RHS has now released details of his planned Willy Wonka-esque spectacle it hopes will be the centrepiece at Hampton Court.
It will feature colas — tropical trees that are part of the chocolate plant family — towering cypresses, topiary balls, fields of crops, and chocolate smells. Visitors will stroll through the entire garden, which will be more than 7.5m high and feature 18 shipping containers. They will climb ladders to the top of the garden and explore interactive displays.
Bob Sweet said: “The garden was a twinkle in Diarmuid’s eye that he would have liked to have put in for Chelsea but we all have to be practical on these things. The garden has fantasy elements in it and feels easier to deliver at Hampton Court, where we have more flexibility. Size is another problem. This will be bigger than anything seen at Hampton Court before. It’s a very exciting prospect.”
Gavin was uncharacteristically coy about his design. “Silence is golden until I’ve got a garden created,” he said.
“My garden is a different experience to other gardens here. It’s all about raising our game.
“Chelsea is a place to express yourself. Chelsea’s showbusiness. And I like to entertain. Perhaps sometimes I provoke too.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved
More in this section